PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2019 NFL Draft with its position previews. Mark Cook previews the tight end position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need from the tight end position, a detailed list of this year’s top tight ends, and Scott Reynolds offers up the annual PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and a pick from the later rounds.
What The Bucs Have At Tight End
Tampa Bay is blessed with two terrific tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Either would be a starter on a number of other teams, so to have two as capable as the current Bucs’ duo makes for an impressive unit, even before you factor in Antony Auclair, who is entering his third season with the team and is developing quite well into an NFL player.
Howard is poised for a breakout season if he can mange to stay healthy, and could close in on 1,000 yards receiving. That was a mark he was on pace to get close to before an ankle injury cost him his final six games in 2018. Howard finished his sophomore campaign in Tampa Bay with 34 receptions for 565 and five scores – all career highs.
Brate had a down year but was playing through a hip injury the entire season that certainly affected his production. The Harvard grad finished 2018 with 30 receptions for 289 yards and six touchdowns. While Howard is the star of the unit, Brate is one of quarterback Jameis Winston’s favorite – and most reliable – safety valves, especially in the red zone.
Auclair is primarily a blocking tight end who is getting better each year. The former French Canadian college player contributed seven receptions for 48 yards last season in addition to his improved blocking.
The Buccaneers also have Tanner Hudson on the roster along with Donnie Ernsberger. Neither recorded a reception in 2018 and will battle to provide depth for this stacked unit.
Tampa Bay lost Alan Cross this offseason after the former Memphis Tiger decided to retire in January and return to his alma mater to begin a career in coaching.
What The Bucs Need At Tight End
The Buccaneers appears pretty set at the position with two starters in Howard and Brate. Tampa Bay will most likely add more players as undrafted free agent tight ends to compete in training camp for backup roles and depth, but barring an unforeseen injury, it will be Howard and Brate as the two primary tight ends when the season starts in September.
The Buccaneers are unlikely to add a tight end early in this year’s draft, but could decide on one on Day 3 if the right player presents good value in the later rounds. With two solid pass-catching tight ends already on the roster, if the Bucs did draft a tight end, it most likely would be to help beef up the run game.
Stanford’s Kaden Smith could be on the Bucs radar as he is projected to be a blocking tight end at the next level and might challenge Auclair for that role in Bruce Arians’ offense. Michigan’s Zach Gentry could also be s player targeted by Tampa Bay to fill the same role. Yet Arians and general manager Jason Licht might want a cheaper option for the future rather than Brate, who will make $6 million, especially with O.J. Howard entering a contract year in 2020, and may elect to grab a pass-catcher to eventually replace Brate.
This year’s PewterReport.com’s 2019 Draft Previews + Bucs’ Best Bets and Draft Videocast are presented by Edmonson Electric & Security – the official smart home and security company of PewterReport.com.
Watch Pewter Reporters Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook, Taylor Jenkins and Matt Matera, as well as other special guests, live on-air via PewterReport.com from the team’s headquarters at One Buccaneer Place beginning on Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft at 7:00 p.m. ET.
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